The Cleveland Indians continue to be in the thick of the MLB Playoff Race. A surprise to many. That is true even as they were sellers at the trade deadline, moving their starting shortstop and opening day ace, and have moved two other bullpen pieces in John Axford and Josh Outman. Granted none of the 4 were high impact players but sellers aren’t suppose to also be competing.
The Tribe has beaten that trend. The Indians are a scrappy blue collar type team that has risen to the occasion time after time. They have also fallen to the occasion just as much. The Indians sit 5.5 games behind the somewhat surprising Central Division leading Kansas City Royals. As much as we expected the #WarForTheDivision to come down to the Indians and Detroit Tigers, the Royals seem to have staying power.
The Tigers, for their part, have fallen off since acquiring one time Cy Young Award winner David Price to put together “the best rotation in baseball.” Yet it hasn’t been and the Tigers have blown their division and Wild Card leads. The Tigers are 1.5 games behind the Royals and only 4 games up on the Indians in the division. They are tied for the 2nd Wild Card spot with the Seattle Mariners, while the Oakland A’s have a huge 5.5 lead over both teams for the first spot. The Indians than obviously trail the 2nd spot by 4 games.
Which leads us to a huge 7 game crucial stretch for the Tribe. The Indians open a 3 game series with the Royals, in Kansas City, tonight. Following that the team finishes an 8PM game Sunday night to fly straight home to open a 4 game series at 4PM Monday afternoon. A very quick turnaround in a very important stretch for the Tribe. 7 games, 7 days. In fact the Indians don’t get a day off until September 25th.
The Indians bullpen will need to be ready, thankfully September 1st call ups should bring in some reinforcements, but are they going to be ready for a MLB playoff race? Ace Corey Kluber will only get 1 game in these 2 series, Monday on ESPN against the Tigers. Trevor Bauer, who has come on strong lately, and Danny Salazar, last year’s late year wonder, will toe the rub against both teams in the next 7 days. A lot of pressure for the young pitchers.
The Tribe bats, up and down (a lot of down) all season, will face “Big Game” James Shields, Price and Max Scherzer as well as downtrodden ex-ace Justin Verlander who could pull a throwback outing at anytime. The Indians will need consistency from their bats, giving the Tribe 3 or 4 runs a night to make this series matter.
A 4-3 record might not be enough to bridge the gap. A 5-2 mark, with series wins over both teams will help bring both teams a little closer in the Indians windshield. By late Thursday night, early Friday morning we will have a good idea what the Tribe’s MLB Playoff Race will really be.
Will they falter early in September or make the Royals, Tigers and other Wild Card contenders sweat until the end of the season? Will the Indians pull off any buyer moves before the waiver deadline on the 31st? Lots of questions, time for the Tribe to answer them.
What are your hopes for these two series?